I am a survivor.
Six hours in a car. Ten hours at an amusement park. Four teenage girls.
OK, so it wasn’t that bad. It was my daughter’s 16 birthday, and she wanted to go and ride roller coasters with some friends. So I piled the four of them in a car and set off toward our destination, three hours away, which means I spent the next three hours hearing songs from “Hamilton” being sung, occasionally breaking for a quick trip to “School of Rock” songs.
When we arrived at our destination, the energy in the car got even higher, as when you near the entrance to Carowinds, you see huge sprawling roller coasters dotting the horizon. Big ones. Fast one. Scary ones.
We entered the park and I did what a responsible father would: I told them all to stay within five feet of me the whole time, and make no eye contact with anyone.
Ha! Made that joke to my daughter. She just stared at me. I told the girls to head off and have fun, and I’ll see them a bit later. The best present a dad can give his daughter on her Sweet 16? Space, in particular if three friends are with her.
I met up with my wife and son. We traveled the park hitting various rides and questioning occasionally why we thought a theme park in August was a good idea, since clearly the earth had moved twice as close to the sun as normal.
I did make a few observations while strolling the park:
- We are a confident nation. As I walked through the park, I saw quite a few folks and thought, “Wow, that person woke up, but on that ensemble, and said, ‘This is who I am gonna be today.’” Good for you, confident person! Own your look.
- It’s a shame some people don’t understand how lines work. It appears some people don’t realize the purpose of a line is to have an orderly manner in which to proceed. Rather, it seems some people are under the misunderstanding that a line is a challenge in which they have to see how many people they can gradually slip past. Surely it’s that and not just people being rude.
- I am not suggesting that people should sprint through a theme park. But the Mosey Off that some folks are participating in? Lawdy. Pick it up a smidge, please.
- I love me a good roller coaster, and Carowinds has plenty, including their newest one, Fury 325, which goes nearly 100 mph. While those are awesome, there is something about a good old fashioned wooden roller coaster, and not just because you are thinking to yourself, “Doesn’t wood sometimes rot or catch fire?” thereby adding to the adrenaline rush.
- I found out I can tie a shoe, sort of, with one hand. Just as the shoulder harness locked into place on the quite speedy Afterburn, I looked down and saw that my right shoe was untied. Since I was about to go do flips and spins upwards of 60 mph, I figured I probably wanted to correct that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get both of my hands to my shoe because of the harness. I kicked my foot upward toward my right hand and, somehow, managed to fumble and fidget and cross the laces once, then twice, and pull them tight. It wasn’t pretty, but that bad boy was snug for the whole ride and, most importantly, on my foot when the ride ended.
- I am not as bothered by selfies as some people. It really doesn’t affect me, so I feel no need to get my feathers in a bunch over what someone else does. That said, I was a bit surprised how many times I saw people trying to take them on roller coasters. Normally, this was on the ascent up the big hill. I have no idea what they were doing during the fast parts, because I was holding on for dear life. But I sure as heck wasn’t holding onto my phone. My phone was safely stowed in a backpack that was left in bins back at the beginning of the ride.
In all, it was a great, tiring day. Most importantly, my daughter said it was an awesome birthday. On the ride home, her friends all fell asleep in the car, so my daughter spent the bulk of the ride just chatting, which was a nice close to her Sweet 16.
She’s eager to go back to the park and ride the roller coasters again. I’m down for that. As soon as the earth moves back to the distance it’s supposed to be from the sun.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.